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It’s a family affair – why it’s time for iPad to go multi-user

Hey, Apple – we want user accounts on our tablets!

At WWDC 2019, Apple made a lot of noise about Apple TV with tvOS becoming a much more personal user experience. By way of Control Center, you’ll be able to select your profile. The interface will serve up your TV content, and your favorite tunes in Apple Music, rather than everyone’s choices being ‘polluted’ by others in your household.

Apple TV will soon have multi-user support

Which is great – and not before time. After all, it’s not like multi-user interfaces are revolutionary – the Mac’s had them for years. Notably, though, Apple was stony silent on anything similar coming to the iPad – and that’s too bad, because if there’s one thing the iPad needs, it’s multiple user accounts.

Naturally, Apple’s accountants probably see things differently. In their eyes, by Apple ensuring the iPad remains a resolutely single-user device, that means families will need more iPads. CHA-CHING! And from a purity of experience standpoint, it’s pretty clear others at Apple consider iPhones and iPad inherently personal devices. Computers – and TVs, for that matter – are hulking great things that remain rooted to the spot; they exist to be shared. Mobile devices are aimed at the individual.

Only it’s not that simple. Most of the Macs Apple sells these days are notebooks, not desktops, and they are primarily targeted towards single users who’ll work with them through the day, and then possibly continue to use them at home on the sofa. And while smartphones are quite obviously designed for a single user, tablets exist in a grey area between them and traditional computers. Families often share an iPad, while everyone has their own phone – and iOS (or, as of September, iPadOS) omitting user accounts can therefore limit rather than strengthen the overall iPad experience.

iPadOS has loads of new features – but no multi-user support

A family tablet becomes a lowest common denominator device, because people don’t want to overwrite someone else’s game score, or accidentally end up signed into a service someone else was using. This adds friction and cognitive load, because you must ‘reset’ the device before you hand it over. Worse, if you’ve young children, you must remember to lock everything down before handing over the iPad so they can have a blast on the latest and greatest educational apps. (If you don’t, who knows what you’ll get back?)

All these problems would vanish if Apple would bring user accounts from Mac – or Apple TV – to iPad. And even the accountants might end up happy, too – after all, multi-user devices tend to need more storage; and if there’s one thing Apple makes a pile of cash on, it’s storage bumps on iPads.